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Sunday, April 30, 2017

PaGA 2017: Day 35a Two Champions

I once actually went to boxing matches.  But that was many decades ago.  I have this recurring nightmare, something that occurs every few years, of me sitting across a ferocious boxer in a ring awaiting my doom.  Thankfully, the fight never happens...but the fear is palpable.

This morning, I awoke flipping channels when I happened across Showtime's coverage of the heavyweight boxing fight of the past decade, and maybe quarter century:  Anthony Joshu versus Wladimir Klitschko from Wembley Stadium in London, with a crowd of 90,000.

The setting:

You probably never heard of Anthony Joshua.  He is 28, was born in England, with Nigerian roots.  He won the super-heavyweight boxing gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.  Since turning pro, he had 18 fights, knocking out every opponent by the seventh round.  

You've all heard of Wladimir Klischko.  At the age of 41, he is 14 years older than Joshua.  To quote The Guardian:

No heavyweight champion in history has achieved so much, yet been admired so little, as Wladimir Klitschko. During a career spanning two decades and 29 world title fights the man known as Dr Steelhammer has accumulated many victories and championship belts – and even more jibes about being merely an automaton with a pummelling left jab and a crushing right hand. Yet, as the 41-year-old addressed the 90,000 crowd at Wembley following his brave defeat to Anthony Joshua on Saturday, he was greeted with something both rare and welcome: a thunderous outpouring of affection and respect.

Klitschko earned the gold medal of the super-heavyweight division at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.  Joe Louis won 25 heavyweight championship fightss, but Klitschko is second with 23, eleven contenders who were undefeated till that bout.  A year and a half ago Klitschko lost the heavyweight title to undefeated Tyson Fury, also from the UK.

His older brother is Vitali Klitschko, and the two of them dominated boxing from 2006 to 2015.  Their father was a Soviet Air Force major general, who was one of the commanders in charge of cleaning up the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.  He died of cancer.  Vitali is currently Mayor of Kiev.

Wladimir has acted (Ocean's Eleven), is a noted humanitarian, and is good at chess and golf.  Both brothers are heavily involved with the needs of children in Africa and South America.  He sold his Olympic gold medal for $1 million, which was used to help the dreams of Ukrainian children.  The philanthropist ended up returning the medal.

With that as a backdrop, Showtime put on a show.  The pre-fight ceremony exceeded that of any Superbowl or Clemson's football pre-game activities.  It took five minutes just for Klitschko to get introduced, and twice that time for Joshua.

Klitschko's wife Natalia sang the Ukrainian national anthem:

At ringside, Arnold and former heavyweight champs, Holyfield and Lewis:

The fight was a monumental battle.  In the fifth round Klitschko went down.  In the sixth, Joshua was dropped for the first time in his life.  In the eleventh, the referee stopped the match, for Klitschko was beaten:

The pre-fight was elaborate, but the after-fight session at ringside was special.  In his long speech Joshua thanked everyone, and ended with especially praising Klitschko, who, as indicated in The Guardian quote above, was, too, incredibly generous.  The first heart-warming finish to a boxing match I've ever experienced.

Maybe what surprised me most was that everyone had grown old.  Announcer Michael Buffer is now 71:

And Klitschko looks more like 61:

I'll probably have a Day 35b, my walk through Palo Alto.


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